beach, childhood, Emily Wildash, envy, flash fiction, holidays, jealousy, short stories, sister, summer
by Emily Wildash
Tessa sat down on the furthest edge of the rocks. Sea spray began hitting her body, turning her pink swimsuit crimson across the belly.
“It’s so cold!” she yelled backwards to Rebecca. “You coming?”
Rebecca nodded and tugged down the hem of her black t-shirt. She wished it reached her knees or, even better, her ankles. Her body had become a foreign language. Month by month, it grew inexplicably larger until she felt like a monstrosity, galumphing along behind her neatly proportioned little sister. It was a mutiny of flesh and hair, her belly turning gelatinous, dark curls growing from her armpits and, far worse, from the sides of her swimming costume too. She missed her school uniform, the oversized sweatshirt with its opportunities for camouflage. But there was no hiding here on the beach.
She crouched down low and began moving towards her sister. The North Sea was wild, oblivious to the notion of summer holidays. Seaweed, slick as snot, covered the rocks.
Rebecca slipped, hitting her elbow hard.
She tested the word out, still new to her, no adults around to tell her not to say it. Rubbing her arm, she watched as Tessa lay flat on her back in a wide starfish. Her sister was right on the edge, one calf hanging over the lip of the rocks, white crests of waves making garters across her thighs.
It looked precarious.
It looked like an opportunity.
No one would know. Tessa would have gone too close to the edge and fallen in. All by herself. And then there would be no more days like this, when Rebecca tried to be as light and free as Tessa but just wound up whacking her elbow instead. No more watching bored beside their mother while Tessa made another easy friend on the beach, returning with an ice cream bought by some unknown generous parent. Even that old woman at the fish and chip shop yesterday had gushed about Tessa with her stupid “almond” eyes and her long hair which hung in perfect sheets of toffee. Aren’t you a sweetiepie? she’d said. And that was exactly the problem: Tessa was the sweetiepie everybody wanted and Rebecca was just the crust. She tugged her t-shirt down again and chewed on one of her fingers, wondering. Even the best bedroom in the holiday cottage had been given to Tessa, and now she lay there laughing at the sky, right on the prow of the rocks. It had been this way all summer: the world welcoming her little sister while she stumbled along behind.
Rebecca began her crab-like shuffle again, closer and closer to her sister’s prostrate, reddening form. A foot away now, the sounds of her movements muffled by wind and waves, she swivelled onto her back and brought her legs up, frog-like, ready to kick Tessa into the sea. She breathed in deep, looking at her little sister’s toffee-coloured head, and then kicked out hard.
Emily Wildash is a new writer whose work has previously been published in Vagenda and Litro. She is currently working on her first novel, which explores the unexpected nature of betrayal, with a literary agent.
Roy Dorman said:
Really nice use of language, Emily; some words I haven’t seen in ages. “Galumphing” is a great word and I plan to use it at the next opportunity. Also, didn’t know how this was going to turn out until the last five words. Excellent!
Very impressive, loved the writing, the suspense and the characters.